Both Georgia and Florida should be in the running for the SEC East crown with Tennessee, while Vanderbilt should be an improved team that will be looking for their first bowl bid since Derek Mason took over the program.
Continue reading to find out which players from all three teams are poised to breakout in 2016.
Lorenzo Carter, Edge Player: Hype. That word has been the theme behind Carter’s football career since he broke onto the scene for Norcross High and became the top ranked prospect from the state of Georgia in 2014. So far, Carter has fallen short of that hype.
After posting 4.5 sacks for the Bulldogs as a true freshman in 2014, he followed it up with a disappointing sophomore campaign in which he didn’t record a single sack.
It’s a learning process, the game of football, especially on the highest level, the SEC. You can make plays but you just have to learn. It’s a grown-man league. You’ve got to be ready.
If you’re a betting man, then you can take Carter having a bounce-back year to the bank. Georgia is losing their top two pass rushers in Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins --- who were both drafted in the top three rounds in the 2016 NFL draft to the Chicago Bears and New York Jets -- and Carter is too talented to under-perform like he has up to this point. Don’t be surprised if Carter ends up with double-digit sacks this season for an ascending Georgia Bulldogs team.
Caleb Brantley, Defensive Tackle: The Florida Gators have been extremely successful in developing quality defensive linemen. Dante Fowler Jr. was a force for the Gators during the 2014 season and last year, Jonathan Bullard emerged as a playmaking defensive end before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third-round of the 2016 draft. Caleb Brantley is looking to become the next major defensive line prospect to come out of Gainesville.
Even though he is slightly undersized at 6’2 300 pounds, Brantley has shown flashes of being a dominate defensive tackle. Consistency, work ethic and attitude were the main issues holding him back from becoming a premier player in college football. So far, Brantley has been working to clean up some of those issues.
Brantley finished the 2015 season with 28 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks. Look for those numbers to improve significantly with Brantley’s improvement and Bullard’s departure.
Kyle Shurmur, Quarterback: Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has seen some dark times since arriving in Nashville in 2014. In two years, he has a combined record of 7-17 with only two wins coming in the SEC. That’s about to change.
Kyle Shurmur is a former four-star prospect out of Glenside, Pennslyvania who has emerged as a potential breakout candidate for an emerging Vanderbilt team. The 6’4 226 pound quarterback isn’t going to lead the Commodores to an SEC East title anytime soon, but he should make the Commodores more competitive.
After showing promise during a stretch in which he started five of the last six games for Vanderbilt as a true freshman in 2015, Shurmur is ready to lead the team to their first bowl game since Mason took over the program.